- Education & Camps
- Restoration & Replication
During this blog post we will be covering only the Museum portion of their mission.
Located in Hutchinson, Kansas, the Cosmosphere is a shining star of what you can find in small town America. Outside the Cosmosphere is their rocket garden containing a Titan II rocket used in the Gemini program and a Mercury-Redstone rocket. Greeting you as you walk in is an SR-71, full-scale mock-up of Space Shuttle Endeavour, and T-38 Talon. On the first floor of the museum are a digital 4K dome theater, education and training rooms, the gift shop, and the concession stand.
Uniquely the main museum is located in the lower level of the facility. The exhibits are arranged as a walk through time starting with the V-1 and V-2 German rockets. As World War Two ends the Cold War begins. On the right side of the remainder of the exhibit will be the USA and the left will be the USSR. I find the separation a wonderful idea that allows you to see history unfold at the same pace per side. The
Cosmosphere happens to be home to the largest collection of Soviet space artifacts outside of Russia.
To get the power of the placement of the SR-71 do this. Walk in through the main entrance, don’t look up right away, turn to the left and walk about 15 feet to the front of the SR-71, now turn around and look up its length. You will see the artistic lines of this unique aircraft. Having so few aircraft in their collection it is logical that such a highflying and speedy aircraft makes the exception.
Flying at an altitude of over 85,000ft and a speed over 3 times the speed of sound, 2,200+ mph, the pilot and reconnaissance system operator both needed to wear space suits in order to operate at these extremes. These space suits where later adapted for use in the Space Shuttle.
Exhibit 2: Mercury Liberty Bell 7 & Apollo 13 command module Odyssey
This exhibit showcases their ability to do restoration on heavily damaged space artifacts. Liberty Bell 7 was lost after landing in the Pacific July 21, 1961 on the USA’s second space flight when water filled the capsule. July 20, 1999 changed that when Liberty Bell 7 was finally returned to the surface to begin its long restoration. The current state of Liberty Bell 7 is amazing. Sure there is damage but it is stunning how well the restoration went.
Odyssey was considered a failure by NASA and was sent to Europe for drumming up interest in NASA & space, finally ending up at the Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace, in Paris. In 2000 it was returned to the USA and sent for restoration at the SpaceWorks Facility operated by the Cosmosphere. There over 70,000 parts were placed back into Odyssey.
Exhibit 3: Russian Space Artifacts
The quantity of Soviet space artifacts is second to none in the US. Included are the flight-ready back up for the flown Sputnik 1, Vostok and Voskhod space capsules, several early Soviet space suits and many other unique artifacts.
The Vostok series was the direct competitor to the US Mercury program. The design of the two is strikingly different. The Vostok capsules are spherical in shape as well as much larger and heaver. They also contain an ejection seat that the cosmonaut would use due to the system’s lack of ability to set down softly.
The Voskhod 2 space capsule, a competitor to the US Gemini program, is yet larger then the Vostok and retains the spherical shape however does not have the ejection seats for the two occupants due to the mastery of retro rockets in the landing phase. The first Soviet space walks where made from the Voskhod 2 space capsule using a unique inflatable airlock.
Hidden Gem: SpaceShipOne Simulator
At the end of the museum’s exhibits is located the only SpaceShipOne Simulator built. The computers that powered it are not on display but housed at SpaceWorks. Being a typical Scaled Composite’s design it is basic but functional. This non-motion simulator was used to test the software that helped run SpaceShipOne and get pilot Peter Siebold and astronauts Mike Melvill and Brian Binnie ready to win the Ansari X Prize.
Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center
1100 North Plum
Hutchinson, Kansas 67501-1418
Monday – Thursday: 9 am – 6 pm
Friday & Saturday: 9 am – 7 pm
Sunday: Noon – 6 pm
As a note the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center a member of the Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program.